At the beginning of the 19th century there were those who described it as “the most beautiful tower in all of Andalusia”. But of it only an 1839 engraving and some vague references were preserved. It was part of the medieval castle of Aguilar de la Frontera, in Córdoba, which was dismantled from the 17th century until it practically disappeared in the middle of the 20th. Now, it comes back to life thanks to new technologies. The study The tower of the Dungeon of the castle of Aguilar de la Frontera, from the archaeologist Carmen Carbajo Cubero, published in the magazine Meridies. Studies of History and Heritage of the Middle Ages, presents the latest advances on how the fortress was dismantled to erect numerous buildings in the municipality, in such a way that it almost “disappeared from the collective memory”.
On the top of a hill in Aguilar, a fortified complex of about 30,000 square meters was built at the beginning of the Middle Ages. It was walled and included 21 towers. Inside the perimeter was located the castle of the Fernández de Córdoba, one of the most influential lineages of the Middle Ages, but around 1726 it began to be dismantled to build the chapter houses and the granary of the town. In 1749 it served as a quarry for the church of San Antón and six years later it suffered significant damage from the Lisbon earthquake: the upper bodies of the Chain and Homage towers collapsed, as well as some of the walls. Around 1810 its stones were used to build the local butcher shop and jail. The iron of its doors was cast for the bars of the prison. In the 50s of the last century a water reservoir was built in the highest part of the hill. 20 years later, the parade ground and a large part of the adjoining rooms were destroyed with the construction of a second water tank. The castle disappeared from view. “But so much stone was removed and so much wall was knocked down, that the rubble ended up covering the base of the fortress, and this protected the last remains of the looting,” explains Carbajo.
Both the Torre del Homenaje – “a large room with a rectangular plan and considerable height” – and the tower of the Dungeon were added, along with other towers and walls, in the 15th century by the last of the Aguilar lords’ dynasty. father and older brother of the well-known Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the Great Captain. The tower of the Mazmorra is a “sample of military architecture, as unique for its shape as for its beauty, described in a lawsuit by the Duke of Medinaceli against the Mayor of Aguilar, which he refers to as’ the most beautiful tower of all Andalusia ”, recalls the researcher.
Archaeological excavations began two decades ago, but it was not until 2010 that it began to be suspected that part of the Dungeon tower could still exist, “given the large number of structures that were being rescued from contemporary rubble.” The experts found that, under the cement of the water tank, its base was maintained. They decided to demolish the depot, but a project had already been launched to make it the Interpretation Center of the History and Landscape of Aguilar (Ciphaf). So only part of it could be knocked down, enough to recover the remaining remains of the tower.
Under the cement, the specialists found a pentagonal building with an elevation inclined about 60 degrees, which then continued vertically. The walls are over three meters wide and some of its stones still bear the signatures of the stonemasons. “The high number of brands is an indicator of the economic cost that it must have entailed, and the interest that the promoter had in it, by allocating so many qualified personnel,” the study points out.
The painter and scholar Manuel de la Corte and Ruano made a drawing together with a description of the fortress “which was taken in the presence of its original, as it currently exists [mayo de 1839]”, He wrote. But the artist did not provide any data on from what point he had made his work, which posed a problem when using this document as a source of research. In fact, the first virtual reconstruction of the Aguilar castle was carried out in 2008, as part of the doctoral thesis of Carmen Madrid de la Fuente, but the expert had few references, because the plan of the fortress was not excavated.
However, the archaeological campaigns of 2009 and 2010 “gave the key to the correct orientation of the engraving.” The false braga (pre-wall of a wall) and three circular or semicircular towers could be located exactly, among them that of the Dungeon, erected in front of the fortified complex. Some kind of stone lookout.
Due to its pentagonal plan, “at first it was thought that it was a precursor of the artillery bastions, and that it was created to eliminate blind spots and be the first defense of the complex, anticipating it”, the article reads. “This wiring [muro en forma de talud] of the first defensive barrier and the considerable thickness of the walls could be indicating that we are facing one of the examples of transition from castle to bastion fort, which could be related to the presence of embrasures, which constitutes an indicator of the change in the tactics of war, taking into account the introduction of pyro-ballistics ”. That is, the inclination of the walls and greater thickness were sought to avoid damage from the artillery.
After the first digital reconstruction, the graphic design company Arketipo followed, in 2010. “The perspective was rectified and the rest of the structures were identified,” the report indicates. However, “said recreation contained some inaccuracies, since the excavation work had not been completed, so it was based on the engraving of De la Corte and Ruano, on historical descriptions and on the indications of the first archaeological investigations of 2009” .
It was not until 2019 when the architect Manuel Cabezas Exposito finished his thesis Urban analysis and virtual reconstruction of the town and castle of Aguilar de la Frontera during the Señorío de los Fernández de Córdoba and reconstructed with the new data from the excavations the tower of the Dungeon: crowned by crenellations, its base was pentagonal, it had three floors and the last two were circular, although on this last aspect a line of research is still open regarding its windows or architectural ornaments.
“The main conclusion”, affirms Carbajo, “is that we are facing one of the most unique stately fortified enclosures in Córdoba, with a volume and complexity that make it a unique site, with architectural elements of spectacular dimensions, semi-circular or circular. , which enhanced and stylized the ensemble and made it a sign of the power of the lord and his lordship ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.